Traveller’s notes

  11 December 2016
  Ekaterina Pavlova

The City of London. Final brushstroke…
 The Square Mile, the City of London, the place where William the Conqueror landed in 43 AD to found the city we all know as London today. Just a size of a square mile this is a separate part which has its own police, its own post and its own Mayor. Even the Queen when she decides to pay a visit must ask for the permission to enter it and this is where the ceremonial sword thing happens.
 The City of London is the place where money is made and they City of Westminster is the place where it is spent, people say:). All world financial deals are struck here. It is the financial center of the planet.
I start my journey with the first out of more than 50 churches built by Sir Christopher Wren, the Michael Angelo of London. Next to it is London School of Economics, boasting a lot famous people as its graduates. Hillary Clinton and Monica Lewinsky among them. Obviously they attended it in different years, but surely, they studied the same subject:).
 Going down Fleet Street that previously hosted all British press, I find the Royal Court of Justice, Twining’s Tea shop, the so-called «politician clock»,- the first street clock with the faces on both sides, old pubs, market squares.
 The Old Bailey, — the oldest Criminal Court in Britain. If you are brave enough you can go and see real time trials, some of which are open to the public. It did it once. Not the most exciting thing to be involved in.
It is the City of London that is the proud owner of the noble resident, St Paul’s, the beloved baby of Sir Christopher Wren. The second biggest cathedral after St. Peter’s in Rome.
 It is the City of London where the Bubonic plague broke out and if only things were not bad enough, the Great fire of London started destroying the city of Chaucer and Shakespeare.
 It is the City of London I am finishing my travel story with hurrying up to pack my things and flying back to Moscow…
 Look, London, I am addicted to you somehow, I cannot explain it… I think I love you…
Yet, I am loyal to the place I belong… as.. I am so hopelessly Russian…
 See you soon, no offense?:)

  10 December 2016
  Ekaterina Pavlova

The City of Westminster.
 Grey skies, drizzling, chilly. Fabulous London morning. Torrents of people are streaming past the memorial fountain to Lady Diana at Green Park station, all heading for the major attraction of the morning, — changing the guards. Nearing 11 am.
 There is a secret game I play with myself every time I enter this area: I close my eyes and leave it up to my imagination trying to visualize this place as it was ages ago. With traffic noise cut off, I feel this place with every inch of my skin: the royal flavour, the power of tradition, colonial past, wild Celtic settlements, divine ballads, cruel villains, brave knights, — all those flashing across my mind in a fascinating dance created by my wild imagination.
 The pleasantly familiar voice of Sinead, the walking tour guide from Piccadilly, gets me back to reality. We are setting off for the City of Westminster tour now. Listening to a ritual introduction of how not to be pick pocketed or lost on the way we are sailing off .
 The Buckingham Palace, official residence of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. The British flag is flying on the mast which means the Queen is not at home, obviously, at Windsor which she adores and prefers to stay there if not at work. If it is a Royal flag on the mast we would know she is in. A more than a 700 bedroom house is a magnificent luxury place lying between St. James’s, Green and Hyde parks offering everything imaginable and unimaginable to its residents and guests, underground swimming pool and tennis court included. If you see a Bentley without a number plate driving around the city, you must know it is the Queen, being the only lady allowed to do so. Should it happen smth goes wrong with the Bentley, Elizabeth is sure to do without outside help, — she was trained as a car mechanic during the war and can easily cope with the trifle of that scale. If you are willing to see the Palace from inside, you are very welcome in August and July, the 2 months it is open to public, when the host is on a holiday in Balmoral, Scotland. By the way, the Queen still has her mail and groceries delivered by a horse and carriage:).
 Standing with our back to the Buckingham Palace we see a white mansion on our left. This is where Prince Charles and his wife Camilla reside. A long standing tradition for future kings. Charles is coming up on his 70 soon, so the question that is on the surface is if there is any prospect of him abdicating and throwing his royal right to his son, William, as a hot potato. The answer is NO multiplied by infinity! The explanation goes back to the abdication crisis the Royal family faced during the WWII. Elizabeth’s father George VI had to take over the title from his brother who had opted out for love, falling for an American twice divorcee, which the blue blooded relatives could not understand or forgive. George VI died in 1952 of lung cancer, yet the family put the blame on his brother causing a nervous strain and the therefore the fatal outcome. The same very year Elizabeth was crowned.
Just behind the white mansion hides St. Jamese’s Palace where all the press releases from the family are issued.
Going through the park we are moving on to see Churchill War rooms. This is where he was staying during the war, and in most severe shelling he rushed up onto the roof and, looking around, yelled: » If there is anything to safe at all, save St. Paul’s cathedral!!!». When the following day I decided to go and see the war rooms, on entering I saw a marble-made face of Winston looking scornfully at me. The security guy asked me why I thought he was looking at us that way. I had no clue and smelling a joke, I heard: «He doesn’t like the prices»:) Yes, the entrance fee was £ 19!
The next destination point was Westminster Palace, The Houses of Parliament. Our guide promises the best seats in the house and she kept her word. Popping in the yard where Westminster public school, one of most expensive in Britain, was nested we got fascinated by the quietness the place suggested. Should it happen you are sent here the chances to rub shoulders with future PMs, people of business and celebrities are very high.
The wow moment came when we came to the Westminster Palace. We cheated the crowd and came there from the side opposite to the Westminster bridge, which was absolutely deprived of people. The timing was perfect the clock started chiming 12! What a site! Magnificent, reserved, bearing secrets of history behind its walls, Westminster looked impressive! It was looking down at us with a hidden subtle smile as if it was confident we were babies so little familiar with the passions it has survived.
 We made our way through the tightly squeezed crowds in the parliament square to face the Big Wheel across the Thames. On doing that we got a precious piece of advice from Sinead (our guide). She gave us a hint that if we felt someone touch our bum it wouldn’t mean they liked it, it would mean they were there for your brand new iPhone 6s there:).
 London Eye was constructed for the millennium and was supposed to be dismantled soon after. Yet it came so much up to people’s liking that it was decided to leave it. The full cycle takes 35 minutes and it often happens young men propose right on top. For extra 45 pounds you get a cabin covered with rose petals served by sort of a butler who is a silent witness to a love story. Once a really quirky proposition took place. The guy opened his heated and asked his darling to become his wife to which she responded: «Let’s talk about it later». There followed the most awkward silence till the Wheel made its full cycle….
 We are entering the White Hall area. The Defence Ministry with its over 200 CCTV cameras filming us taking photos of them just 1 meter away from the walls!:) The familiar images of the Monument to the WW I glorious soldiers where on formal occasions politicians and royalty lay the wreaths, 10 Downing Street, now fenced as there was an assassination attack, Royal Horse Cavalry, leading up to Trafalgar Square… Everything breathes history here, every lamp post, every brick.
 It started drizzling more intensively and to say London showed itself in full beauty was an understatement. The Thames gently whispering something to the Embankment, the glorious spirit of the past and that of the shaky present were so harmoniously seated together that it was a mystery how this City, struggling through centuries, retains its incomparable unique charm…

  6 December 2016
  Ekaterina Pavlova

Piccadilly-Soho-China Town Walk.
 4.30 pm. Piccadilly Circus is bathing in lights and crowds. It is bursting with vibrant life and desire to amaze. And it is succeeding in it.
 The biggest outsides advertising screens in the world are changing their lights leaving everyone mesmerized by the scale and the picture. The statue of Eros is obviously jealous as those big screens are definitely stealing a huge share of attention.
 Joining a Piccadilly-Soho-China Town walking tour is quite a new experience. Meeting at the Doughnuts’ place we are patiently waiting for the others to join in. There are some people who, when they are 15 minutes late, still think they are early:). The gang of 11 of us are setting off for the tour. Dutch, French, Argentinian, Spanish, German and Russian blend makes it really attractive, but the decoration of the group is a little Spanish girl Sophie, who speaks impeccable English unlike her parents who are awfully touching in their pride for their daughter and embarrassment of their own very modest command of the most popular language in the world. Sophie studies at a bilingual school in Spain.
 Off we go. We are headed by a very enthusiastic guide, a lady of Irish origin who is absolutely passionate about what she is doing. We are covering Piccadilly, Fotnum & Mason, following the footsteps of Beatles, crossing Regent Street, going down Carnaby Street, entering Soho, flowing into China Town. Going with the flow we get a massive portion of knowledge on different aspects of London’s life in different times. Real people with their life stories seem to emerge in front of our eyes. Granted with the royal warrant Fortnum & Mason where her Majesty buys her groceries, delivered to the Buckingham Palace by a house and a carriage. Mail is delivered to the Palace in the same fashion:). The most fashionable in the world tailor’s street Savile Row which is also well-known as a street where Beatles gave their last live gig together on a roof of one of the houses. They were having a tremendous blast! The Beatles have gone, the best tailor shops have remained.
 Show me the person who hasn’t heard the name «Carnaby Street». The great ironical twist is that Carnaby Street is no longer the one that Beatles or Hendrix or any of their contemporaries once knew it.
It used to be home to famous musicians and artists. Former closed clubs for the iconic idols of those days still host plates serving silent reminders of «what happened in the club stayed in the cub» principle. Carnaby… Anyone could walk down the street enjoying that fabulous atmosphere of freedom, artistic style and electric life. It is no longer there. The spirit of trade turns it going now.
 As we were entering Soho we lost our Argentinians. We were heart broken as the guys were really very engaged. Our guide said that if people get lost in Soho, they never get found:). The name «Soho» originates from the hunting cry which was issued when it was time to start hunting (SO-HO). It is now a picturesque area with very diverse public attracted to this place for various reasons: food, music, illegal substances or the doubtful prospects of physical pleasures. There was a black door with a metal plate on it in one of the streets: «This is not a brothel. There are no prostitutes at this address».
 Soho is a paradise for food lovers. You must know places, however. Please ask when you go:)
Entering China Town, I caught a fragment of a conversation of 2 Russian guys: «Ой, это что, какой-то китайский квартал?!» Yes, it was China town:).

  6 December 2016
  Ekaterina Pavlova

 The day started with no electricity working in the kitchen:) No toaster, no coffee, no microwave pleasures. The solution was the «Kaldi Coffee» place. It was rush hour time so people came in and and out hardly staying in for longer than it would allow them to have their take always ready on the go.
I had a luxury of staying, the benefit of a free morning, you know.
 Ordering my Flat White and a toast with butter, I saw only half a table vacant. Asking the man who was sitting there if he minded, I got it that he didn’t, but quite on the contrary, I landed on a chair. The coffee was quick. Stealing glances at me, the man was shy to start a conversation. Noticing my craving looks at the counter where the toast had to arrive from, he asked a very transparent question: «Are you waiting for something?» And the conversation rolled in. The man was very hungry for talking, and I was desperately hungry for my toasts so both of us were fully happy with the situation:). By the time the coffee had been finished the toasts arrived, giving my morning company a chance to lead the talk.
 It was a pleasure listening to him, real London morning.
  St. Martin’s in the Fields
Day Concert.
 The Crypt Cafe in the basement of St. Martin in the Fields Church is the place where I am a regular visitor when in London. I had an hour before the day concert, so I cuddled myself into a beautiful arch next to the fabulously decorated Christmas tree with a hot pot of chicken soup, a tea and my tab that was my sweet company to which I trusted all my thoughts and feelings during this trip.
 The time flashed as a lightning and up I went to listen to the piano concert of the day. One of the things that makes London fabulous is that it offers you fantastic options to any taste. A classical piano concert off Trafalgar Square in the middle of the day, with divine music by Bach, Haydn, Mozart, flowing on you to marvelous acoustics under the ancient roof of this Catholic Church sends you flying through not yet touched strings of your soul, showing you that there’s so much beauty around, so much tenderness.

  5 December 2016
  Ekaterina Pavlova

Source of inspiration.
 The questions I ask myself every morning here: «What is the physics of inspiration?» Where does it begin? How can I catch it? Why does it drift in and out? Why do I care?
Sometimes really unexpected things can trigger it working. «Fortnum & Mason» has served this trigger today. A tea shop with 300 year history behind, now belonging to a Canadian family enjoys my regular attention. The key reason is always the same, — tea. The fringes are all else. Magnificently posh, yet very welcoming and inviting, it stands off Piccadilly Circus always proud and noble. Its shop windows can take your breath away, they never repeat themselves, they never fail to strike. So unashamedly tasteful! As everything else inside.
The exterior and interior beauty is just the beginning. I am coming to the counter for my favorite «Countess Grey» (earl grey tea with orange peel) to meet a very pleasant young woman who we immediately fall into the conversation with. Her name on the badge (Anna) and her trace of accent prompt the guess she’s got Slavonic intonations. True, Anna is Ukrainian. We switch to Russian and indulge ourselves into an incredibly interesting talk lasting for about half an hour. She cracks her story of moving to France with her family, getting her education there finally ending up in London. Being born into a family of teachers and musicians she studied in Sorbonne, giving herself to music and languages. «Fortnum & Mason» has been her long lasting dream that has finally come true this December allowing her to be part of «Christmas support » programme. Anna’s dream is to become a tea sommelier traveling around the world watching tea plantations and tasting teas.
 Her favorite tea for now is «Countess Grey»:)
So you can enter your inspiration zone any moment, it is waiting for you round every corner, disguising itself into different masks, — people, buildings, fleeting moments. Just be quick to catch it and hold it tight!

  4 December 2016
  Ekaterina Pavlova

The smell of the airport.
 What does the airport smell to you?
Sheremetyevo, Domodedovo, Heathrow, Gatwick, Munich, Charle de Gaulle, JFK…
Once you find yourself gazing at the Departure board of any the familiar smell hits your nostrils….
I am strolling down the terminal 4 with multiple images floating in my memories: that of my first love affair with Aeroflot magically carrying me to my first overseas experience ever, London, as you may have already guessed; the aircraft IL-86, looking like a Mars Mission spaceship with stunning sky views and most delicious meals; the Captain cracking hilarious jokes about the flight details, the weather in London and treating us with his flirty small talk; I am sailing through that ocean of memories thinking back to to my not really numerous destinations, but those so enchanting: London…Bejing… London…Somewhere in India… London… Edinburgh… London… Cardiff… London… Amsterdam… London… Dublin… London… Inverness… London… All those being accompanied with that very smell: the smell of the airport… a bit of nostalgia, a pinch of heartbreak, a handful of regrets, an avalanche of sweet memories, crowds of incredible people… an ocean of love…
 Oh, Heathrow, I can smell you now…

  Ekaterina Bespalova

 Al last — I am in my element now. Travelling via Birmingham to the North of Scotland to Inverness gave me a wonderful opportunity to steal several hours of sleep. The plane landed in Inverness airport to be the only aircraft in the landing area at all:). It was drizzling, it smelt the sea and it was so fresh. All around was drowning in the green leaves and grass. Oh, how much I feel at home here!
 Jumping on a bus I still found it hard to believe I returned to Scotland again! The bus was driving softly up and down the green hills and I was devouring the landscape, so long wanted.
At the station I yielded to the temptation and bought a gorgeous ( at least I think so) pink baseball cap:). You may have your own judgement later and I hope it will coincide with mine:).
I settled in Lyndon Guest house which had everything to let a tired traveller relax into the wonderfully Scottish way of having it.
 The morning started with a hearty Scottish breakfast of porridge, baked tomato, fried ham, cup of coffee with toasts:). Waving goodbye to the hospitable place I headed to hire a car. On the way to Arnold Clark Car Hire I was planning to find a Vodafone office to buy a sim card to ensure regular 3G access. Noticing a confident guy who was looking at his phone I jumped up to him asking if he knew where to find the office. It turned out he was also looking for one and we hurried cheerfully to the nearest shopping centre. Scott-that was his name, turned out to be a firefighter who is divorced, still he has 2 wonderful kids and goes to see them regularly and loves them so much.
In the Vodafone office they told me it was useless to buy a sim card as in Highlands you could barely track any signs of 3G. Another useful bit of advice was to never call a «loch» a «lake»:). Digesting this valuable piece of information and still buying a sim card I collected a 3 door Toyota Aygo and off I went.
 My first destination was Dornoch. A little town up in the north- east of Scotland is a place to be lost in wonder. The day was warm and sunny, having a couple of problems with roundabouts in Inverness I successfully drove out of the city and made my way up. The views were stunning, warm wind was blowing tenderly, hugging my body as I was jumping out of the car to feel this beauty on my skin.
When I eventually reached Dornoch I parked the car near the royal golf course club and went to the ocean right across the course. People were playing golf, endless courses were going up and down, neatly cut grass felt velvet under my feet. And here it is… The mighty Ocean, baffling you with its grandeur and beauty. The water was quite cool and I was the only one to bathe, — only a few dogs of holidaymakers joined me with pleasure.
An unforgettable walk along the shore, barefooted, followed and I felt I could fly…
Loch Ness.
 It was time to go on. My way went back through Inverness along Loch Ness, via Fort William to Oban. Words are not enough to describe what I saw and felt. Majestic mountains covered with cloud caps, towering over lochs catching each other in a very friendly way. Twisting serpentine road was snaking forwards calling me ahead to see more and more of changing mountain scape presenting breathtaking scenic views which nearly made me choke with rapture. Now I understand why Scottish people love their country so much and why they have always been so proud to call it «The land of Scots» wanting to share it with no one else.
 Elderslie B&B was impressive with its freshness and tidiness- so fast asleep I was and so little I wanted to get up that all my plans for early rise collapsed:).
 The second day «the weather was rubbish», as the local people say. It was raining all day long, which stood in my way of watching the scenery and all I could do was to drive quietly to my next stay in Arrochar not far from Inverarey. Nearer the evening the sky cleared a little and I popped in the car and drove aside Arrochar to find the most striking place ever, — Glen Douglas,- I saw the sign to the glen accidentally and decided to take a risk: a one track very steep and very narrow road led me to an amazing spot which opened an unbelievably amazing view from top!!! I had to use the 1st gear all the way up, and up there I discovered that it was a place for military trainings as well… The place was absolutely deserted and I felt a little bit pissed off, especially when I noticed a police car crawling slowly from behind the bushes. They went past me like ghosts disappearing in the fog. I went down slowly and saw a beautiful deer a bit ahead of me, — right on the road! Of course I frightened him away by an alien — looking Toyota Aygo, and the deer didn’t leave me any chance to see him closer:).
 The window of my room looks over the lake and mountains No head can stand this much of beauty:))… So I’d better close my eyes and get to sleep….
On the way to Stirling.
 The next morning the skies opened up and swallowing my breakfast of divinely tasty hot Scottish porridge, scrambled eggs with smoked salmon, followed by a cup of coffee ( real rubbish if you asked me) and a couple of toasts, I jumped into the car and drove on. My way lay through indescribable beauty of lochs, mountains, glens. The first thing I wanted to see that morning was Inverarey Castle. I arrived there well before the opening hour and that was a real benefit! A magnificent-looking impressive building dating back to the 13th century talked to me its story face to face, — just me, it and the sheep idly walking nearby. The castle itself, and the huge territory surrounding it are still privately owned and you cannot get access to all the parts of the castle. Yet, it is the location and the surroundings that strike. Cuddled on the bank of the Loch, it sits peacefully and reliably on the hill hugged by trees, fields, hills and grass carpets. Time stops. You stop with it.
Unwillingly saying goodbye to this place I carried on. The winding road was going up and down for me to see the most dramatic sceneries…
 Loch Lomond was soon to appear. I had been here before, but given you arrived here by train, consider you have seen nothing. YOU MUST DRIVE HERE. It gives you a very full picture of how incredibly powerful the creation of everything around is compared to you, a tiny creature whose duty on this planet is to be grateful for all this. Loch Lomond welcomed me with its blue face, friendly curves and stony little beaches. The water was crystal clear and cold, — what a bliss to bathe after a long drive!
 It was time to go to Stirling. Evening was encroaching and I took A 811 to the university of Stirling where I had to reside that night. Stirling Castle was guarding the city from the top of a high hill, keeping everything well under control.. The mountains became smaller, the roads wider. I drove into the city without a recent fear of roundabouts, — I got used to those and even started to like them:). You don’t have any other option, in fact, — you have to like them as they are… EVERYWHERE!!!
It was raining again the next morning and I cancelled my plan to go to Stirling casle, comforting myself by the excuse that I had been there before and that instead I could have an hour of shopping. Asking a man from staff how to find peanut butter, I got a precious couple of recipes how to cook shrimps and meat with peanut butter:). Another peanut butter fan:)). People are very open and friendly here. Very good sense of humour. In one rather big shopping centre when I was looking for a bookshop(which was just round the corner from me), I asked a guy how to get there. With the most serious face imaginable he said:»Mmm… I am afraid I will have to call a taxi for you…»
 I dropped my car in Stirling and am now on a train for Edinburgh. The train consists of 2 carriages and… There is a toilet in:).
 No matter how many times I get here the impressions are always fresh. When sunny it is festive and gorgeous, when rainy and cloudy it is gloomy and scary. Both states take turns, — sometimes several times a day.
 A six-hour walk along the castle, Royal Mile, Princes Gardens killed a curious traveller in me and I crawled to the hotel. It was a sleepless night as Edinburgh is not only the city that never sleeps, it is the city where you have to know how to choose the right hotels:).
 4 am… A cab pulled down to the hotel door and in an absolute silence I was delivered to the airport with 2 EasyJet flights longing for me to be carried to my so much wanted home.
 So farewell farewell Scotland, — you’ve been really indescribably great, but my sweet home is something you will always be only second to…


  APRIL 2014
  Ekaterina Bespalova


April,6. Sunday.
 Off we go.
 Our London story begins early in the morning with British Airways welcoming us on board. The aircraft is half empty which gives me a wonderful opportunity to stretch my legs occupying 3 seats at the back of the plane and have a lovely sleep 10000 km above the planet.
It is just awesome to be moving to meet sunrise on the plane. The skies are giving you spectacular views teasing you with breathtaking skyscapes and an anticipation of a new adventure.

April,6. Sunday.
 An amazing lady of Irish origin gave me a very warm welcome. Her house is very clean and cosy. As usual it takes some time to get used to where things are and where your room is located:). As you go up the stairs you see 5 absolutely identical white doors which are looking at you and seem to say: try and guess which of us is yours:).
 The house is set in a very beautiful street off the busy road, so you can really enjoy your way home and relax after a hard day.
 Eileen is 75. She is absolutely lovely, — cheerful and with a charming irish accent. Very talkative and agreeable. Sense of humour, too. On my arrival day she treated me with breakfast and a really delicious dinner. We chatted long into the night and I got the amount of information a rare head can accommodate:).
 Eileen has recently lost her daughter who died of brain cancer and it is the first time after a long spell that she agreed to accept anyone in her house. This seems to be doing her good.
In the mornings she goes to church to attend masses. She is a catholic. She also has a son who lives in New Zealand and many grandchildren, 4 from her son and 2 from her late daughter. Her husband died 15 years ago. She showed me his pictures, such a handsome man- a real Belmondo! He was Irish too. Not Belmondo, — Eileen’s husband:). Eileen said that she would never ever have married an Englishman:).
Every time I come or go she gives me a hug which she calls «Nan’s hug» and she calls me «Darling»:). She treats me like a child and she spoils me like a child giving me tasty things to eat. One evening I came late after our night out and as it came to going to bed I pulled up the blanket, dived into the bed and nearly cried out of surprise, — there was a hot water bottle under the blanket making my bed warm for me:)).
 The further we go the more surprised touched I get. I cannot grasp it how one person can be so full of love and attention at the same time. It is the first time in England that I come across such an unlimited amount of charm, lightness, care, attention and warmth… Maybe it is because Eileen is Irish:)?
 On my leave we swapped up the presents: she gave me a set of wonderful teaspoons made in Ireland, and a box of Irish tea:))))
 She was waving me good bye with her open and sincere smile and with my heart leaping to my throat I thought: » I WISH I COULD SEE YOU AGAIN ONE DAY…»

 Highgate has been sunny and friendly as ever. We were treading along the familiar city scape: cosy streets, charming houses, friendly shops. Being situated on the top of a really high hill, Muswell Hill allows us to see central London bathing in the rays of the setting sun. Every time it takes my breath away to see this part of London, so magnificent and so warm, so businesslike and so lovely.
We pop in Toff’s, — our main destination. Fish & Chips is a treat we can’t miss here. Coming in we sit at the reserved table and the feast begins:). We recognise some of the guys I saw before not once, they also recognise me smiling back.
  The Fish & Chips arrives followed by magnificent Fish & Chips with cod, wonderful mood accompanying all that never leaving us in this enchanting obsession with gastronomic pleasure.

April,10. Thursday.

 Absolutely by accident I had managed to grab a ticket to see this miraculous show! The concert was dedicated to the Irish president’s first official visit to the UK. First after the long 90 year old silence between the 2 countries.
 Royal Albert Hall looked particularly good and proud on that day. Cheerful and busy, too. With security cordons around and the buzz of a big event it promised something new and fresh, and, oh, boy, — it kept its word!
 Being aware that the «dress code» had lost its point and was the thing of the past, I was wearing my trousers and a white T- shirt when I entered the Hall. Gradually I realised that it seemed that I was the only person dressed that way :). Everybody else was dressed up, thoroughly groomed and it all looked really high scale!
 What followed was unforgettable. Very soon my feeling uneasy about the inappropriate clothes vanished into thing air. The magic of Ireland settled in and threatened to never leave me. Irish singers, River Dancers, poets, journalists splashed out all their feelings, talents, joy and hopes onto me… 2 hours flew like 2 minutes. The music, the word, bits of Gallic at places, the President’s wonderful, funny, kind and absolutely intelligent speech just melted my heart making it never want to freeze back again.
 Very soon I saw all those people in the audience and on the stage were warm and united. Most of them were obviously Irish. They were moving to music rhythmically, singing and reading poetry together, rushing to get a pint of ale in the interval between the performances, being genuinely happy and proud to be Irish.
 After the concert I wanted to go Ireland. Immediately. Without packing my suitcase:).

 I am really afraid now not to find enough words to describe what I saw in London this spring.
Crystal fresh, fragile, shimmering beauty was embracing me wherever I went, whatever I did, whoever I met. I did my best to absorb every smell of it, every bit of it, every moment of it.
Wimbledon and its every nook, St. James’s Park, Hyde Park, Green Park, Kensington Gardens which are absolutely inviting in any season, have surpassed all my expectations this time. Taking my regular route through the park I was ready to stand still and become part of this spring wonder with young green grass, blossoming trees and the just born feeling of new spring smashing all fears and worries on its way.
 People around were sharing all this with me, — could feel in on my skin. Sheer delight. Absolute wonder. Unforgettable sensation.


  Ekaterina Bespalova


December,8. Sunday.
 Easy Jet is welcoming us aboard again. Though I was really reluctant to take the services of this airline, the budget speculations have taken over my unwillingless.
 Our small and very nice «crowd» of four people ,- Olga, her brother Michael and Alena met earlier in the airport at the check-in desks. I immediately felt that was the right company. I hope the guys felt the same:)).
 Having checked in, gulped tiny portions of unforgivably expensive (at least according to their size) americanos in the Coffeemania we jumped into the airport shuttle which brought us safely to our plane:)
It was snowing outside, big and fluffy snowflakes were floating in the air wishing us a safe and comfortable flight…
 Then came the time for the safety announcements. It was not, actually, the safety announcement procedure that was so much exciting, as the faces of the flight attendants while they were doing it. The ones I could see were a bit on alert, half-smiling, half- frowning and a bit confused about how to combine everything they have been used to in England with these very different life and weather standards here in Moscow… They coped fine however:)
 After they have had the anti-freezing done, we taxied slowly along the runway to where we have to take off and having waited in the queue to depart for a good 40 minutes, off we are taking!
 Up in the air the sky scape is wonderfully different from what we are having down in the cloud-cast Moscow, — the miraculously clear blue and yellow hues are playing with the plane hugging it lovingly. The carpet of white clouds is spread beneath the belly of our Jet.
 On the plane, just immediately after the take off Alena, Michael and Olga are already filling in the landing cards: either of the gripping desire to land as soon as possible, or just to save up some time for the following dinner- have to ask them to clarify. Another idea has popped up in Olga’s head: before the departure, her mum cooked some cutlets for her and Michael, and given the smell of the fresh home-made cutlets could easily tease the other passengers on board which would have deprived them of genuine pleasure of savouring those, they thought why not sell those as a top addition to the Bistro’s menu list:)). Which would make everybody satisfied and happy!:) And the profit, of course! Business… As usual…
 The dinner on the trolley has appeared at the front of the plane. According to the previous experiences it may be here at raw 9 in about 40-60 minutes’ time. It makes your appetite skyrocket and it makes your journey faster:). All I could do in this sort of situation is arm myself with the old and wise saying of oriental people: BE PATIENT!:)

 Against my firm position about not eating wheat bagels, I asked for one and drinking it down with earl grey tea felt ashamed and pleased at the same time. The mistake was to check the ingredient info afterwards: the shame got more shameful, but I was not less pleased though:). The 2 things to sweeten my anti-bagel failure were 2 freebies in the shape of a twix bar and a bottle of still water.
 The skies beneath us were reminding of the still summer seas, glistening red shades as far as the eye could see, with a burning sharp yellow horizon line… With the body full, the soul was asking for adventures…
The day flashed into a beautifully english evening when our jet landed at Gatwick.

December,8. Sunday.
 A very strange feeling, I must confess. I really do feel at home here in Wimbledon, where every street seems to be saying hello at my arrival. Yes, I am sure helping my imagination to work in this direction but we both are coping very well!:)
 Narrow winding streets are snaking around me, showing familiar twists and turns, leading to familiar places and making me remember old friends and long bygone times… It was here that I first came to Britain, it was here that I first felt a really exciting sensation of a totally different world, very different from the one I lived in back then. It was here that English settled in my heart forever and sent me to the path which is now my life…
 So, hi again, Wimbledon:))


December,9. Monday.
 I am meeting Olga and Michael in the station and we are heading off to Windsor. The idea to visit it in low season has always seemed appealing to me. It was now time to realise it.
 Taking a replacement bus from Stains we drove slowly to the walls of the famous ancient castle. With the weather divinely warm and sunny we had all chances to burst with excitement. And we did.
 Entering the gates of Windsor Castle I had a feeling that history itself was residing here comfortably. Round towers, moats, winding paths, neatly trimmed grass and happy residents of the castle were smiling at us silently.  The audio guide was talking me through the one thousand Windsor, giving me as colourful a picture as possible of its past and present. I caught myself thinking about its possible future…
 The castle is standing on a hill so you can see the stretching green fields kissing the horizon lovingly far ahead.
 Then we entered the royal apartments. Absolutely impressive. Luxurious, spacious, beautiful, good taste. Very reminiscent of the Buckingham Palace which is not a big surprise, — the masters are the same. Just in case it escaped you, Windsor is a home residence of the royal family.
 Looking at all that luxury and riches I thought back about the Londoners, who I see rushing to and back from work on a daily basis, struggling to get their way to happiness in overcrowded trains, rented houses and busy shops and offices. British subjects and their monarchy tops are sharing the same country and living so very far away from each other.
 Yet for me as a tourist this day was a bliss…

December,10. Tuesday.
 Fish&Chips is a must-try when in the UK. And it is just your duty to find a really good place to go and have the real taste of it.
 It was many years ago when I first learnt about a small restaurant in Muswell Hill in the north of London. I learnt it from Shirley, the lady in whose house I was staying back then.
 So we had a Fish&and Chips story planned for Tuesday. The evening was cold and you could barely see anyone on Muswell Hill. Usually busy and noisy it looked deserted and lonely. The four brave russians jumped off the double decker and rushed to the cherished doors of Toff’s,- the Fish&Chips place, — the one that I have been remaining faithful to for quite a number of years already.
 We reserved a table in advance and were welcomed in. Getting the menus and choosing the table, we nestled cosily in one of the corners of its small green and wooden interior and started to look around. With our photo cameras and high mood we broke into the business like and rather composed and sedate atmosphere of this truly English place like a tropic storm.  Everybody around, the visitors and the stuff seemed to be happy about this sudden break in the routine. While our orders were being attended they took pictures of us all together, asked questions and, I am sure, stole a lot of glances and were a bit jealous of us being so happy and carefree.
 My soup arrived first and I had serious doubts about owing all of it. Still, there is a definite advantage of being a supervisor in your group:) — no one dared encroach upon this delicious sight which was teasing us with its smell and look! Oh, boy, I was eating soup again!!! After 3 days of our soupless life I felt like I hadn’t eaten that for years! The plate was emptied in no time…
 Immediately afterwards in came crispy, huge and amazing Fish&Chips! Freshest haddock in the batter accompanied by a bowl of finest chips!
 To say delicious is to say nothing! We were eating and chatting incessantly. It really WAS enjoyable!
 Soon it was time to pay the bill and go back home from the north of London to its very south where we were staying. Hardly had we asked for the bill, a man came up to us. He was wearing a very strict look and in his appearance he reminded a military man. He wondered if we had enjoyed the meal and asked if the photos we had made would now be posted all over the world… At first we all felt a bit embarrassed thinking it was not allowed to use the camera, but then things got a totally different turn. KOSTAS, — this was the name of the boss of TOFF’S, plunged us into an exciting world of fish business and answered all our questions that popped up.  We spent another half an hour listening and talking…
And, frankly speaking, it is meetings like this that make your travel unforgettable and it’s meetings like this that you remember with warmth and a blissful smile…
 We left TOFF’S full and satisfied waving to everybody who was looking at us through the glassed walls of the hospitable little place. The last thing to do was to take some pictures. And we did:)) Together with Kostas who ran out of his tiny fish palace:) to help us out and.
 At the end of the day I promised him to post this story in my traveller’s notes. AND, YOU SEE, KOSTAS, I’VE KEPT MY WORD:))).

December,12. Thursday.
 The Hall is really royal! It takes you time to get up to your Circle seats and it takes your breath away when you finally reach them! What you see down and around is stunning! Full of people, it goes down in circles decorated in festive red, all solemn and majestic. Wherever you sit you can’t have a restricted view as everything is meticulously planned. All the raws are in circles and each next one goes higher and higher so that no one is in anybody’s way.
 Royal Philharmonic Orchestra was performing on this day. It had long been my dream to attend its concert and here it goes, — my dream was coming true! Not a single note that would have led to me being bored or disillusioned…. Every second of it filled my being with the world of music which was beyond any power words could describe… You don’t need words to paint it, you don’t want words to describe it… You are simply lost in and it makes the story.

December,12. Thursday.
 Why is it the British people can make simple things so wonderful?!
They never stop to amaze by introducing really great ideas into life. Take, for example, the light trail that was mentioned above.
 What happens is they have taken Kew Gardens as a scene and, simply using the lights of different colours, they lit up the trees, bushes and the ponds they have there! To add to that, they hanged some lanterns inside the trees and with night doing its dark business, the gardens turned into a fairy tale like woods… Enigmatic music and queer sounds magnified the effect.
 I was walking through the gardens mesmerised, stopping at every tree and looking at everything as a 3 year-old kid, believing in this magic forest and its hidden secrets…
 The climax of the show came at the end. The glass orangery was hidden in the darkness and reminded of a huge whale sleeping in peaceful sea waters, when suddenly, against the dark skies, it got illuminated by a flash of light! Enigmatic music broke through the gardens and the wonder began: flashing all possible pallets, the orangery exploded with all colours my eye could only imagine, making the plants shades fantastic and outlandish, as if dancing under the raving night skies… And then… the lights have gone… the music subsided… the Whale stopped still, sinking into the dark of the night…

December,13. Friday.
 Well, everybody knows, afternoon tea is something uniquely english. Though the tradition remains mostly in hotels it is still rating as something quite popular, especially among tourists. When I asked my english friends if they have afternoon tea as such, they smiled and said they rather had tea in mugs round the day.
Last summer I first attended Afternoon Tea event at the Brown’s Hotel off Piccadilly Street. It should be mentioned the Brown’s is a luxury hotel, so everything there was up to the mark. Service and food included.
 This time we decided to give tea a try in the suburbs, namely, at Cannizaro House. The hotel is located in the Wimbledon area, so we got their rather quickly. The most beautiful table was reserved near the fireplace and we immediately felt at home. The wood was cracking merrily and we plunged ourselves in the divinely soft sofa and armchairs, anticipating the treat.
Inside the lounge it was absolutely cosy, warm and very beautiful.
 Our tea arrived following a tray with scones, cakes, sandwiches, cream and jam. We attacked it all happily, feeling full and satisfied very soon. As it often happens we managed to eat less than we probably thought we would and on leaving we asked to take everything that remained home. Our request was gladly attended and to top the story, the scones, sandwiches and whatever it was on our hospitable table went into a nice pink bag making us totally satisfied:).

December,13. Friday.
 The evening turned out to be rainy which made it look more enigmatic for the event that we were going to… Christmas at Candle Light at St. Martin’s in the Fields. It is a big church right near Trafalgar Square where they always have a festive programme before Christmas. It had long been my dream to get there one day in December. And here I was.
 We climbed the stairs and found ourselves in a different world. It was all lit up by candles, the light was very dim and we were ready to experience something new. It was obvious that many of those present were regular visitors, so the atmosphere was really homey and warm.
 The evening began and the music carried us away so far that at times I thought we would never get back:). Bach, Hendel, Vivaldi, solo singers and Christmas carols seemed to unite people around and make them live through the sea of feelings, images and sensations. Something very warm settled in my hart and I wanted it to always belong there…

December,14. Saturday.
 Right are those who say that London is the world’s theatre capital. Every time choosing a new musical to see I am wondering what they’re going to be up to this time. And they manage to come up with something totally unexpected, very professional and really unforgettable.
 The story repeated. Dirty Dancing at Piccadilly theatre was our choice this time. We first tried to book tickets online, but the shock came when we opened the price page. Thinking that it was a bit too expensive we headed to the theatre’s ticket office. When we came there it turned out that if we bought the tickets at that very moment the prices would not be a lot different from those online, but the lady in the box office advised to come in the morning on the day of the performance and said there could well be a chance to get 20-pound tickets to the stalls. The idea seemed appealing and Olga agreed to do it for us next morning, which we were grateful to her for, really.
 We came into the house and sank into our chairs waiting for the delight to begin. And it began…
 America of the 60s last century was moving in front of our eyes. With impeccable dancing, touching songs and the charm of the cast, the music worked wonders.
 It caught your breath away, it made you crack with laughter, it helped you relax into the world of wonder and love. This was where you again turned into a naive and all-believing girl knowing that the magic of true love would no doubt touch you with its wing and hugging you tenderly will never let you go…

Гусельникова Ольга
 Загадка: где всегда солнечно?
Подсказка: уже час мы летим из Москвы в Лондон…
Правильно, на высоте 12 тысяч метров над землей 🙂
Наш рейс немного задержали (интересно, 50 минут на взлетной полосе относится к разряду «немного» или это уже «прилично»?).
Нас всего лишь четверо: Кэйт, Алена, Мишка и я.
Регистрация, паспортный и непаспортный контроли прошли быстро, неинтересно, и вот мы в самолете.
Я первый раз лечу авиакомпанией EasyJet, и должна признать, что несмотря на тот факт, что это бюджетная авиакомпания, впечатления очень приятные. Довольно много места, самолет не напоминает бабушкин диван и абсолютно отвратительный кофе.
Вспоминается фраза из песни «Англичанин в Нью-Йорке» Стинга » I don’t drink coffee, I take tea, my dear».
 По утрам разница во времени шикарна, ты просыпаешься в 6 утра по местному аборигенскому, подтягиваешься и думаешь, вот бы с таким же чувством просыпаться в Москве в 6 утра :-))
Английский завтрак был вкусный, но скромный. Кейт вчера вечером объяснила, что они и сами мало едят и плохо готовят. Может играет роль отпечаток островной жизни, или английская сдержанность… Короче, с едой тут и правда засада. Вот уже второй вечер здесь, а никакого удовольствия от еды. Сижу пью чай, ем странный яблочный пирог и слушаю, как за соседним столиком обсуждают одни и те же проблемы: мы редко видимся, он работает меньше меня, а мой больше, Мадонна Миа!!!
Должна признаться, что мне нравится чай. Я готова пить его хоть целый день, он совсем не такой, как в Москве. От кофе конечно же я не откажусь, но чай — это пока единственная кулинарная вещь, от которой я в восторге!
Это летняя резиденция королевской семьи и вообще одно из любимых их мест. Там они проводят праздники, выходные, устраивают официальные приемы… От отеля весь путь занял примерно час. Мы приехали почти к самому открытию, так что если бы не группа азиатских девочек-школьниц (в количестве штук 50 разом) мы были бы первыми посетителями :-))
Замок расположен на холме и когда-то служил крепостью. Мы взяли аудио гид (я мужественно и дважды меняла испанскую версию на английскую, почему-то мне упорно пытались втюхать именно испанский вариант) и пошли по маршруту. Очень красивый замок, часть комнат открыта для посещения и очень интересно ходить по тем же комнатам, что и королева во время приемов. В некоторых залах стоят телевизоры и на них можно увидеть запись того или иного светского раута в той комнате, где ты сейчас находишься.
Долго описывать замок не буду, фотографировать в нем нельзя, да и очень сложно передать убранство комнат и залов. Здорово одним словом!
 В голове засели почему-то два необычных пунктика, одно из них наблюдение, а другое комментарий.
Я заметила, что во многих комнатах паркетные доски скрипят под ногами и покачиваются даже под моим весом :-)) Сразу вспоминался Эгесков Слот в Дании (кто читал, должен вспомнить, как я сокрушалась про прогнившее датское королевство).
А комментарий вот какой: в 1992 в замке был большой пожар, причина которого официально не объявлялась, всего лишь в одной из комнат (бывшей часовне) можно найти табличку: в этой комнате такого-то числа и такого-то года начался пожар. Удивительно, как можно было умудриться чуть не спалить замок в конце 20 века?!
 Я чувствую, что Англия отличается от всей той Европы, где я была, но не могу понять, чем именно…
Еда: да, еда отличается. Очень сильно. Я до сих пор не понимаю, что такое традиционная английская еда. Вот сейчас пока писала эту часть, лопала какой-то яблочный пирог. На фото симпатично, а по вкусу что-то странное.
Люди: да, люди отличаются. Чем? Другие… Просто другие. Я бы сказала, что они более отстраненные и сдержанные, нежели европейцы с континента.
Язык: и вот тут странное чувство. Я много ездила, и стала относиться к английскому языку как к средству общения. В меню в любой стране я искала под местными каракулями с названиями блюд испанской, французской, немецкой и прочих кухонь мира английский вариант каждого блюда. Если я видела надпись на англ, она мне казалась какой-то понятной, родной и знакомой. Для меня это было не что-то самостоятельное, а некое очень мощное средство. Всего лишь средство (что кстати не перечеркивает его достоинств: логики, красоты, полноты и тд). Это была универсальная палочка-выручалочка, встань посреди любого европейского города и крикни «Кто тут говорит по английски?!», и я уверена, что за пару минут ты найдешь нужного человека. Но все те, с кем мне до этого приходилось общаться на английском были кем угодно, но не англичанами.
А сегодня в нашей ванной я поймала себя на мысли, что я по диагонали посмотрела что написано на стене и стала искать… Английский? Фуф, так ведь здесь один только англ и ничего больше. И вот это привело меня в замешательство. Кругом один английский и ничего больше.
Это забавно сидеть на столиком в баре (особо нервных прошу не переживать, алкоголь не пью вообще, лечусь антибиотиками, полный сухой закон и по барам хожу исключительно ради вечернего чаепития) и понимать хотя бы процентов 60-70 того, что обсуждают за соседним столиком 🙂
Я  все еще интуитивно пытаюсь найти в Англии хоть что-то не английское, забавно да?
А ведь Англия обладает своим нравом, характером, традициями и мне бы хотелось за неделю стать хоть как-то со всем этим знакомой.
 Британский Музей.
Я не фанат музеев, но посетить стоило. Поражает количество вывезенных с Египта, Греции и востока статуй, обелисков, голов фараонов и их гробниц. Когда мы проходили по залу с греческими статуями и их остатками, я не выдержала и спросила вслух «Так что же тогда в Греции осталось?!». Миша логично ответил: «Греки».
Когда же идешь по центру города, понимаешь, что вместе с индийскими сокровищами, англичане вывезли и индусов с их родины. Их очень много в городе, в метро я задумалась, а как бы я описала типичного англичанина и я для себя пока не составила визуального портрета.
 Поле музея мы поехали в сторону Букенгемского дворца, увидели как оттуда выходили несколько семей с детьми, дамы (или точнее Леди) были в необычных шляпках, а Сэры в парадной (может даже военной) форме. Здорово 🙂
Потом мы пили чай, ели вафли с нутеллой и дразнили сначала гусей, а потом и пеликанов в парке Сэнт Джеймс по пути к Хаус оф Парламент (дом парламента), где на набережной стоят огромные часы Биг Бэн. И вот когда мы вышли из-за угла, увидели красную телефонную будку, машины и Биг Бэн, пришло ощущение что вот мы наконец-то и в Лондоне :-))
 Ну, во-первых, я купила сумку своей мечты! Некоторые из вас знают, что ты влюбилась в нее в первый же день, но решила проверить наши чувства. Я каждый день заходила ее проведать и влюблялась все больше и больше. И вот утром наконец-то решила действовать, переживала, что ее кто-то другой заберет. Но она досталась мне :-)))
После обеда у нас были билеты на концерт в Роял Альберт Холл, королевский филармонический оркестр представил специальную программу, посвященную Рождеству. Вот тут не обошлось без конфузов 🙂
Мы немножко опоздали, буквально пару минут и поэтому зашли в зал уже после того, как закончился гимн. Бесконечно извиняясь, мы протиснулись к своим местам. Мы были на балконе на 4 этаже, и размер зала просто потрясает. Огромный овальный зал с потрясающей акустикой, бесподобный оркестр… Я хоть и не ценитель классической музыки (очень редко доводилось ее слушать, не говоря уже о живом оркестре), но от некоторых песен и мелодий просто мурашки по телу бежали.
И вот тут случилось это. Я уже не могу точно вспомнить, как это произошло, но посмотрев вокруг, назад и вперед, я поняла, что мы в окружении стариков, причем самым молодым старикам по скромным оценкам было не меньше 60-70. Внизу вообще одни белые и лысые головы сидели!!! Ни одного детского, молодого или даже взрослого лица. Мы с братом представляли очень яркий контраст с нашими соседями (Кейт и Алена сидели несколькими рядами выше нас, не рядом). Я удивленно оглядывалась и крутила головой, заметила как часть старичков мило дремали, прикрыв глаза и… услышала, как кто-то кашлянул в одном месте, потом в другом и меня просто прорвало. Ничего особо смешного в этих мыслях не было, мы просто в таких ситуациях говорим » смешинка в рот попала», я пыталась объяснить Мише, что со мной или хоть как-то успокоиться, но все бесполезно. Кашель продолжался доноситься с разных сторон, ну ей Богу, как в богадельне.. Не подумайте, что я смеялась над стариками, я очень уважаю и ценю их энергию, они молодцы, что ходят в таком количестве на концерты (зал был практически полностью заполнен людьми, особенно партер), но мы там смотрелись явно как белые вороны. Слезы уже текли у меня по лицу, и я правда подумала, что меня сейчас выгонят… В какой-то момент Миша понял, над чем я смеюсь и тоже начал зажимать рот и нос руками, чтобы хоть как-то угомониться… Фуф, это было и ужасно и смешно.
 Примерно тоже самое происходило с Кейт, Алена опоздала и первую часть Кейт сидела одна. Лысина впереди сидящего старичка мешала ей фотографировать, отсвечивала очень, и сама Кейт тоже была поражена возрастом участников «вечеринки».
Особенно контраст почувствовался, когда » молодежь» в антракте пошла в буфет. Они выпила кто вина, кто джина, кто чая и еще больше оживились. Молодцы, у нас конечно пенсионеры такими количествами никуда не ходят, даже на митинги или за пенсией. Потом стало понятно, что молодежь по большей части была повезена автобусами, видимо это туристические группы.
Если не считать этого происшествия, концерт очень понравился!!!
После концерта мы поехали на световое шоу в Кью Гарден. Это парк, в котором установили разного цвета фонари и очень красиво и необычно подсветили деревья и кустарники. Перед входом в парк была маленькая рождественская ярмарка, я съела вкусную бельгийскую вафлю с вишневой подливкой!!!!
 Лирическое отступление.
Очень сложно с переходом улиц. Я уж молчу, что мы постоянно смотрим не в ту сторону, так еще в Лондоне очень агрессивные водители. Автобусы порой мчатся с такой скоростью, что в пору прятаться за столбом или хотя бы держаться руками, снесет нафиг. У них большой штраф полагается, если ты не пропустишь пешехода на переходе, но в связи с этим водители отыгрываются и никогда не остановятся, чтобы пропустить тебя в неположенном месте. Пешеходы в свою очередь нагло перебегают улицу на красный свет, видимо за это не наказывают. А мы приспособились бегать вместе с местными, они ведь по смотрят всегда в правильную сторону в отличие он нас разяв.
 Зашли перекусить перед Afternoon Tea, в 16 часов в одном из отелей у нас развлекуха в виде «послеобеденного чая», и вот сейчас я жую свой сэндвич. Миша заказал суп, спросил у официанта, что за суп дня, оказалось «голубой суп», на вопрос с чем или из чего этот суп: с мясом, курицей, овощной, тот честно ответил, что понятия не имеет :-)) зато честно.
Кстати, британцы порой даже слишком честный народ, попрошайка на станции например честно отвечает, что просит у тебя денег, чтобы выпить стаканчик, никаких слезливых историй о голоде или холоде :-))
 После этого мы поехали в церковь St Martin in the Fields, там был еще один концерт классической музыки (и немного Рождественских песен), но после сладкого чая и кучи выпечки (да еще учитывая мою бессонницу утром), ужасно клонило в сон. Места у нас были наверху, мы с Аленкой сидели рядом, Мишка в конце зала (видно было только его голову), а Кейт сидела вообще на противоположном балкончике. В целом мне понравилась первая часть, но если честно, я переживала не надоело ли Мише, он пару раз непонятно зыркнул в мою сторону. Я смалодушничала и предложила было сбежать в перерыве, но оказалось, что ему очень нравится и он даже не думает уходить. И правильно сделали, потому что вторая часть была просто потрясающая. Как красиво сыграли на скрипке «Зиму» из «4 сезонов» Вивальди, слов нет! Я не много версий слышала, пожалуй это первая в живом исполнении, но по телу то и дело пробегали мурашки…
Надо отметить, то на этом концерте было не так и много вчерашней «молодежи», публика разнообразная, и очень многие пели песни без текстов наизусть, Кейт говорит, многие британцы ходят петь в хоры при церквях, оч красиво получается. Молодцы!
 Кстати, мы себя называем теперь Рэмблерами. Вчера пока ехали после концерта, смеялись до слез. У глагола RAMBLE (у нас есть поисковик с таким названием) есть одно из значений «бродить безрезультатно в поисках пищи по саванне». Когда мы это прочитали, чуть со смеху не померли. Под конец нашей поездки мы настолько оголодали, что стали похожи на тех, кто РЭМБЛИТ по Лондону в поисках пищи (и что важно, безрезультатно)!!!!
 Вэстминистерское аббатство.
Это просто огромный склеп в прямом смысле слова. Мы сбились со счета сколько же королей и важных фигур истории Англии там похоронено, казалось, что в каждой выемке стены, по всему полу и может даже потолку одни могилы. Бррр…
Внутри очень красиво, жаль, что нельзя было фотографировать в аббатстве…
В какой-то момент показалось, что горят пятки от того, что топчешь ими могилы великих людей.
После аббатства мы разошлись в разные стороны: я и Алена на мюзикл, а Мишка в Hyde Park погулять. Перед театром мы нашли итальянский ресторан и второй (второй!!!!) раз за неделю вкусно поели 🙂
Мюзикл был просто потрясающий, как они красиво пели и танцевали, как здорово были сделаны декорации, а исполнительница роли танцовщицы Пенни просто богиня танца! Она была как куколка и бесподобно танцевала!
После антракта мое внимание привлекли двое мужчин, они сидели через ряд от нас и один положил голову другому на плечо. Я просто обалдела и даже на какое-то время отвлекалась от того, что происходило на сцене!! Не выдержала и задала глупый вопрос рядом сидящей Кейт: «Это что, двое мужчин?», на что та коротко и спокойно ответила: «нет, это две женщины». Я сначала подумала, что она шутит и присмотрелась еще внимательней, и оказалось что это правда две женщины, коротко подстриженные :-)) о времена, о нравы!
 После концерта мы немного прошлись по улицам в центре, заглянули в пару магазинов и поехали в сторону дома. Поужинать в первом ресторане не получилось, он был полностью зарезервирован, и нам посоветовали сходить в итальянскую пицерию неподалеку. Очень уютное место, нас быстро усадили за столик и к нам подошел наш официант. Немного послушав нашу речь между собой, он спросил откуда мы. Узнав, то мы русские, он выдал нам «спасибо» 🙂 он был португалец, и я в свою очередь ответила ему «убригаду» (что означает тоже самое на его родном языке). Он спросил как долго мы здесь и нравится ли нам Лондон, местная еда… Я было попыталась помягче сказать, что не самое вкусное место в мире, но он прервал меня и откровенно заметил «мусор, а не еда». После поведал, что любой португалец знает испанский, но далеко не каждый испанец может говорить на португальском. Но в связи с давним и видимо вечным соперничеством, ни один португалец без острой необходимости не будет говорить на испанском, лучше промолчит.
 Нам принесли пиццу, которая в меню называлась «средней», я не стала даже спрашивать о размерах большой пиццы, потому что средняя была как раз размером со столик :-)) смотрите фото.
Не успели мы начать есть, как подходит тот же официант и с довольным лицом выдает: «Жопа!». Пишу как было, без цензуры, потому что от неожиданности услышанного я даже не смогла поднести стакан ко рту, а Алена так и застыла с неоткушенным кусом пиццы во рту. Но мы же в Англии, господа, поэтому пришлось отставить бокал, вытереть губы салфеткой и спокойно поинтересоваться, а собственно в чем дело.
 Этот дурик с таким же довольным лицом отвечает, что с ним работает парень из Эстонии и он ему сказал, что в России так называют красивых девушек, это что-то вроде проявления восторга и признания красоты.
Пришлось объяснить бедолаге, что значит это слово, и настала его очередь моргать глазами от неожиданности. Очнувшись, он разразился бурей португальских ругательств и пошел разбираться с коллегой (предварительно извинившись перед нами). Вернулся с бумажкой в руках, осторожно показал мне написанное «Красивая девушка», я одобрительно кивнула, и он довольный озвучил написанное :-)))


  JULY 2013
  Ekaterina Bespalova


July, 13. Saturday.


  Too busy and hot to like it or feel the romance :).

  Midsummer. In the middle of your dreams, in the middle of wonderful sensations, at the beginning of your exciting travel to London…

  Easy jet has opened its doors and skies for Moscow this year. Interestingly, it is a low-cost airline whose services have long been done throughout Europe, so we can now feel the taste of it too.

  We have met with my students at the meeting point in the airport lounge and through the heat and crowd have ascended aboard our A 320. Everyone is a bit tired after the fussy packing and awaiting, but all of us are really happy 🙂

  It has taken the cabin crew 2 hours to squeeze through the isle and deliver hot and long-awaited snacks to the guys,- they have been dying of hunger!

  As Easy Jet is a low-cost one you must pay for everything extra: for the drop bag, for the meals on board, for the newspaper. I even began to wonder if I had to pay for the toilet paper. Clicking the WC door behind myself I got it: no, the toilet paper is there free and unlimited 🙂

  A really nice guy, Dominique, was sitting at the window seat near me. We chatted a little during the flight. Originally from Austria, he works and lives in Britain now, working in computer sciences. When asked if he likes it leaving in England, he held a pause and then shared it that » it is…ok…» His probable dream country to live in is … Germany. North of it.

  A short nap and in 30 minutes we are about to land in Gatwick. It is my first experience with this airport and I am quite curious to see what it is like.
Gatwick turned out to be much less fussy than Heathrow and much friendlier!

The house where I have to live is very clean and cosy. The host lady Mary is a really nice old lady in her seventies… It has been a busy but happy day. Let us see what tomorrow has for me 🙂



July, 14 Sunday

  The morning sprang like a glorious song, — sunny, fresh, cheery. The car boot sale behind my house opened at 8am. You have to pay one pound to have a pleasure of walking among the isles shaped up by cars of all sorts in which people have brought old stuff they want to sell. They are open till 2pm and by that time many things sold out.
  No matter how many times I have been there the place never stops to attract me again and again. So fresh and young, full of people and the sea, magnificent, bright and solemn. Quite cold as well:)
The Royal Pier with the amusement park has has brought a regular trophey in the shape of Nemo- fish- a nice addition to my fish collection from Brighton:)



July, 15. MONDAY

  Monday is Monday wherever you are…
Sleepy commuters heading for their offices. Very hot Monday this time with temperatures jumping up to 30.
We are meeting in front of the school with the students. It seems they are a bit afraid, but only a bit! Today they are going to be streamed into groups according to their level and their studies are beginning here.
It is doing the museums that is on our tourist agenda today, — V&A, Science Museum, Natural History Museum. Wandering around the city afterwards.

  I, in the meantime, do some food shopping and kill ?50 at a time!



July, 16 Tuesday

  The train was flying past green fields and meadows… Cambridge was ahead. I was there about 15 years ago and practically all memories have vanished except, perhaps, the tiny bridge over the River Cam and some really happy sensations…
Thinking back to those times I feel my heart jumping to my mouth. That was a very romantic trip. We did that with my friends from school and we were on the top of the world from what we saw and felt!



July, 18

 Richmond park is my destination today. Being one of 8 London Royal parks it has its own charm. With its calming atmosphere and fresh breeze, the gardens , Pembroke Lodge and King Henry’s Mound from which you can see St. Paul’s Cathedral on a clear sunny day it never stops to make your heart leap and soar. Magnificent oaks, birches and a multitude of flowers are absolutely amazing in the simplicity and richness.
It has become my regular route:))

  The house where Winston Churchill spent his last 40 years. In his diary he wrote that a day spent outside Chartwell was a wasted day of life.
Only when I arrived there I got it why he had said that. The green sea of trees and grass seen endlessly far with chalk hills and fabulous serenity.
  Winston Churchill fell in love with the place and decided to buy it from the family that owned it. With the house standing on the hill with the spectacular view on the meadows, hills and lakes- nothing else could be that inspiring. Yet after Sir Winston lost the elections he ran into serious financial difficulties and couldn’t afford to support the house any longer. So he put it on sale. However, Churchill had a lot of good friends and they, knowing how dear the house was to him, collected the money, gave it to him and stuck a deal with » National trust» organisation which meant the Churchills could live in the house as long as they wanted, The National Trust would keep the house and then upon their death the house would become national heritage.
All that was agreed upon and that was the house where Churchill lived until he died at the age of 91. His wife didn’t want to stay in the house after his death as it had so many memories of him… She lived another 10 years.
When I entered the house it impressed me by not being museum like. I could feel the hosts in everything,- design, colours, air.

  And Jock- the cat. Winston Churchill expressed his will to The National Trust. He asked them to always keep a marmelade cat named Jock( that was the name of his dedicated secretary:) AND I SAW JOCK!!!:))


  The weekend has come unnoticed, as usual. It was time to go to the Isle of Wight. We took a train as far as Portsmouth and then a ferry to Ride. 3 hired cars were waiting for us in 9 George street Esplanade car hire. We registered, popped into magnificent VW Beetle, Golf and Polo and off we went. There is nothing like marine scape seen from the the car moving along neat and cultivated Isle.
was welcoming us. The home family residence for Queen Victoria and Prince Albert felt like a real home, not a palace. You could read a real love story of the Monarch family looking at you from the painting, photos and getting to your heart in the shape of letters and memoirs.

  Standing right at the seashore. Somehow the animals look happy as they are!
Everything is organised with care and attention, love and consideration. I wish we could borrow this principle as a base for Russia.

  Jane and David Blake. The hosts. Everything here in the 19th century real English house is filled with the warmth of their attitude. The dining room, the sitting room, the halls and corridors, stairs and rooms themselves are cosy, touching and excellent taste. You can see owl statues, family photos, pictures of horses and a lot of «Thank you» cards at the reception.
When you wake up at «The Hermitage» you hear unearthly silence which impresses immensely.
Never heard anything like that anywhere else, so the semantics of» hermitage» becomes clear.

  Driving about the Isle makes you want to scream with joy from emotions, beauty and unspeakable happiness. You are loosing the feeling of time, limit and space.

  On my way back from Oxford I notice a lot of police heavily armed, helicopters circling in the sky, police cars and TV cars around Paddington station. It strikes me that William and Kate should be leaving hospital with their first-born tonight.
Curiosity leads me to St. Mary’s Hospital Lindo Wing where I see a lot of people, camera men and where I feel very cheerful mood and anticipation.
Kate’s parents are the first to visit the grandson and daughter. You can see they are very nice people, open and kind, unaccustomed to so much public attention.
Then it is Prince Charles and Camilla that are entering the building to see the baby.
And..FINALLY..the crowd explodes roaring as Kate and William appear in the doorway. They are cradling their son tenderly in their arms looking absolutely happy…
2 days later the baby was called George…

  I wish I could see this place at low season. I can imagine it being really a cosy nice place with the castle and the Thames, Eton across the river.
However, even with so many people rushing to and fro, a long queue waiting to get access the Windsor Castle and, at least for some time be part of royal luxury, the place stands out.
Walking around you find «Long Walk» behind the royal residence which opens up a view that is amazingly beautiful, snaking streets, cosy cafes and small shops — all that making Windsor look special.